The Arm of God

The Arm of GodThe Arm of God by Jack Cavanaugh
Genres: Biblical Fiction
Published by Threshold Publishing on March 26, 2014
Pages: 455

 

The Jewish village of Zorah lived in the shadow (and fear) of the Philistine city of Ashdod. Allocated to the tribe of Dan, they were unable to remove the native residents and claim the land that God had given them. Through the years, many in the tribe of Dan had chose to live in other locations, but there still remained some who longed to finally acquire the land God said was theirs.

Eri has spent much of his life training for war. A merchant by trade, he makes his living on the streets of Ashdod. But secretly he plots ways to defeat the Philistines and ultimately expand Dan’s borders to its intended size. However, a horrific tragedy forces Eri to examine his life’s focus and seek God’s will—elusive as that may seem. While dedicating his life to God and the goal he feels driven to achieve, he befriends Samson, the man who will later be listed among the Judges of Israel. But as Eri is filled with wonder by Samson’s strength, he’s equally baffled as to why God would choose Samson? In a vivid retelling of Samson’s life, The Arm of God combines culture, scripture, and imagination to portray one of the Bible’s more polarizing characters.

The Arm of God combines culture, scripture, and imagination to portray one of the Bible’s more polarizing characters

Veteran church goers are well acquainted with the stories of Samson. From early Sunday school classes, we’ve been fascinated with both the strength and stupidity of Samson. However, when a talented author takes hold of a familiar Bible story, they have the ability to breath new life into the tale and offer the reader a different perspective that can be both challenging and enlightening. Such is the case with The Arm of God. Jack Cavanaugh takes Samson’s life and lets the reader reexamine some of their thoughts about this complex, self-destructive individual.

From previous experience with Jack’s novels, I was well aware of the constant pull the character would have on me.

From previous experience with Jack’s novels, I was well aware of the constant pull the character would have on me. When I read the Songs in the Night series, I don’t think I went to bed before 2:00 a.m. I just had to know what would happen next. As expected, Eri, Samson, Omar, Dathan, Badyra, and the other characters in this book compelled me to keep reading just one more chapter. These characters are likeable (or not) in a way that brings readers into the story. None of them are straightforward; they each have a wonderfully multifaceted personality.

Not only are the characters complex, they are also relatable. Eri questions God and struggles to find God’s will. As was likely the case, Samson is shown to have a multitude of emotions—anger, confusions, lust, fear, insecurity. Badyra is evil, but not without personality. There is motivation and reason that guides his ruthlessness.

Ultimately, the characters drive this story, but the plot itself is also excellent.

Ultimately, the characters drive this story, but the plot itself is also excellent. While The Arm of God includes Samson’s life, it’s told from Eri’s perspective and is expanded to incorporate both his personal life and the events happening in Israel during this time period. Part of Jack’s work that I’ve always found fascinating is the inclusion of perspective—sometimes it’s minor and other times more complex. In this case, what is it like to be a Jewish merchant working in a Philistine city? One week at war and the next working in their city? How does it feel to dedicate ones life completely to God only to watch someone else be filled with His power? These little things that engage the reader’s imagination is part of what makes this book so very good.

The rise and fall of Samson is one of the Bible’s more tragic stories. It’s easy to judge Samson and a lot harder to understand him. While Jack uses imagination to compel the reader to consider a different side to Samson, the results are plausible and allow for some grace to be added to his life. The Arm of God offers a fresh perspective, intertwined with an interesting story and relatable characters.

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